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updated 11/11/2010 11:40:44 AM ET 2010-11-11T16:40:44

Guests: Lawrence O‘Donnell, John Garamendi, Donna Edwards, Robert Casey, Gary Peters, Steven Weisman, Kevin Spacey

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Shake it up.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight:

Change we can believe in.  So here‘s the question for Democrats, progressives and moderates both.  What do you do to show the voters that you pay attention, that you‘re listening, that you believe in what you‘ve done but know you can do better?  How do you get better politically, as well as get the policy right—you know, the policy that will put Americans back to work and in time to save your party?

Nancy Pelosi laid out her defense today and said the avalanche of Democratic defeats was simply a reflection of the unemployment rate.  It wasn‘t her fault, it was the economy‘s fault.  Not all Democrats see it that way.  Fifteen members of the House of Representatives have questioned the current leadership team, and it‘s our top story tonight.  How do the Democrats beef up after a bad fall?  How do they build up to win it all back in 2012, including the public‘s confidence in them?  We‘ll get to the hard geography of it, too, how President Obama can win back the faith of those Rust Belt voters getting smashed today by the economy.

Also, remember the heroes?  Remember that great senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan?  Remember when our leaders could see the future coming and could tell us how to prepare for it?  Oh, yes, and he also could talk to the other side.

And the Republicans certainly staged a comeback in this election, but not too long ago, widespread scandals cost the party control of Congress, and corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff was in the middle of it.  Well, now Abramoff is being played by two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey in the new film “Casino Jack.”  He‘ll be here—Kevin—to talk about it and what it‘s like to play a sleazeball who helped bring down the Republican Party the last time they had power.

And “Let Me Finish” tonight on that very same subject, political corruption and how it gets going here, how absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Let start with the big question.  Will the Democrats in Congress change or stay with what they‘ve got, to what got them here after the worst defeat in 70 years?  Congressman John Garamendi is a Democrat from California, and Congresswoman Donna Edwards a Democrat from Maryland.

Mr. Garamendi, first of all, are you happy with the leadership of the Democratic Party in the House that led you to 60-some defeats in this election?

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA:  You bet I‘m happy with Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer in the leadership.  It‘s not just the election.  You take a look at what was actually accomplished, extraordinary legislative accomplishments that took place, all the way from this—the American Recovery Act, bailing out and saving the financial base of America, jobs bills, high-speed rail, all kinds of legislation passed the House, very important, largest legislative agenda perhaps in the last 50 years.

Not all of it, in fact, very little of it passed the Senate and got to the president.  And because of that, I think we were unable to turn the economy around as fast as we could have, had those bills actually been passed into law.  Nancy Pelosi a great leader.  Steny Hoyer is a great leader.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

GARAMENDI:  And we‘re going to need that kind of strong leadership.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK, let me go to Donna Edwards.  Do you agree with that?  Because here‘s the problem.  Everything that Garamendi—

Congressman Garamendi just mentioned was passed by the House and the Senate.  The financial regulation was signed by the president, passed by the Senate.  The stimulus bill, passed by the Senate, signed by the president.  The health care bill, passed by the Senate, signed by the—those are the issues that the Republicans ran against successfully and knocked almost all of your moderates out of Congress and reduced you to a minority.  You‘ve lost all the seats you won in ‘06, all the seats you won in ‘08, plus more seats, and you‘re sticking with the same team.  No sports general manager would do that.  No sports general manager would stick to the same team after such a wipeout.  Your thoughts?

REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND:  Well, I‘ll tell you, I think we start out by saying that we had actually three really volatile elections in this country starting with 2006.  And what we‘re doing is we‘re sticking with a leadership team—and I would count among them Jim Clyburn as part of that leadership team—that‘s going to get us back to the majority.  And we...

MATTHEWS:  Who are you going to vote for, Steny or are you going to vote for Clyburn?

EDWARDS:  You know what?  I‘m from Maryland.  I share a county with Steny Hoyer.  I‘m, you know, part of the Congressional Black Caucus with...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but how are you going to vote?

EDWARDS:  ... and I think that...

MATTHEWS:  Who gets to be whip?

EDWARDS:  I think leader the leader—that Nancy Pelosi is going to work out a dole with the three of them in the room that makes sure that we have a leadership table that really represents our caucus...

MATTHEWS:  OK, if you were to vote right now between...

EDWARDS:  ... and is strong enough to keep us going.

MATTHEWS:  ... Steny and Jim Clyburn for majority whip, number two, who would you vote for?

EDWARDS:  Chris, I‘m not voting.  I‘m not voting on that.  The leadership team...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the name of this show, Congresswoman?

EDWARDS:  The leadership team...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the name of the show?

EDWARDS:  It‘s really HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Nancy Pelosi.  Here she‘s speaking in her defense today.  She felt she had to do this, apparently.  She‘s actually now, I think, smart to reach out to the public, not just to members of Congress.  She hasn‘t been doing that for two years, actually having an outside public relations communications strategy, I don‘t think.

Here she is, attempting that in “USA Today,” one of the real big national newspapers.  Quote, “The results of last week‘s elections reflected the general frustration of the American people, who are justifiably angered by the continued high unemployment rate.  While Democrats are also disappointed at the rate of job growth, it does not diminish what we have accomplished.”

It sounds to me like, Mr. Garamendi, like her attitude is, yes, it sucks out there.  The economy‘s bad.  But don‘t blame me.  And that seems to be your view, as well, Don‘t blame Pelosi.  Is that your view, Don‘t blame Pelosi?

GARAMENDI:  No, my view is that the economy was in a terrible, terrible state when Obama came into office, and major legislation was passed to turn it around.  That legislation would have been even more successful had the action of the House actually...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

GARAMENDI:  ... been made into law.  But the reality was that when Obama came into office, we had—he was handed a $1.3 trillion deficit...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

GARAMENDI:  ... and we had no help, no help whatsoever from the Republicans in the House or in the Senate.  They simply refused to help, basically following the Mitch McConnell strategy of, Let it all go straight into the...

MATTHEWS:  He asked for the job.  He asked for the job knowing what the deficit was going to be.  And let‘s not get crying...

GARAMENDI:  Of course he did.

MATTHEWS:  ... over this.  He knew it was...

GARAMENDI:  Not crying, but Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you—let me ask you...

GARAMENDI:  ... we need to understand the progress that was made.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

GARAMENDI:  And in fact, very significant legislation was passed...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

GARAMENDI:  ... which is very, very important...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

GARAMENDI:  ... for now and on not future.  You talked at the outset of this about Moynihan looking to the future.  You look at those pieces of legislation that you talked about, those are all things that will change...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

GARAMENDI:  ... America for the better in the future, as well as right now.

MATTHEWS:  OK, you got 15 members of Congress out there—let‘s take a look --  let‘s run the picture of the—you got 15 members of Congress out there.  We‘re going to run their names out there now, if we have it, the 15 names of congressmen who are out there—and women—who are saying—here are the names of the ones who‘ve raised issues about this election of Speaker Pelosi—and Heath Shuler of North Carolina, Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, who was on this week on this show, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Larry Kissel of North Carolina, Tim Ryan of Ohio, Michael Quigley of Illinois, and also Albio Sears (ph) of New Jersey.

So it‘s all across the country.  These are not just conservatives—most of the conservatives and moderates have been wiped out of our party.

Now let‘s take a look at this issue, “USA Today,” I just mentioned, they‘ve got a Gallup poll on the cover today, fascinating number.  They‘ve asked people, Should the Democrats basically stick to their principles”—here‘s the question, the way they put it, shows that 59 percent of Democrats thinks it more important for political leaders, the Democrats, to compromise, only 18 percent say it‘s more important to stick to their beliefs.

Congressman Garamendi, 18 percent say stick to the Democratic line, 59 percent say—this is Democrats talking, Democratic voters—compromise.  What do you think?

GARAMENDI:  Of course we must compromise.  We‘re going to have to compromise...

MATTHEWS:  Have you been doing it for two years?  Have you been doing it for two years or just—go ahead.

GARAMENDI:  Chris, you know there‘s been major efforts to do just that.  It was the Republicans that absolutely refused to work with anything, even such things as ending tax breaks for American corporations that shift jobs offshore.  The Republican refused to support the end of those tax breaks.  Apparently, they want more jobs shipped offshore.  Little thing things and big things, we got no support, no compromise from them.

Yes, we will compromise.  We always have.  You take a look at those major pieces of legislation, each one of those is a compromise, and significantly, in my view...

MATTHEWS:  All right...

GARAMENDI:  ... weakened as a result of the compromises that took place mostly in the Senate.

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman Edwards, what‘s your view?  Is the public right when 59 percent say compromise, or is the 18 percent right that say, Hold the—hold your position, stay liberal, stay progressive?

EDWARDS:  You know what?  The public is right in the sense that they want us to get something done, not for us but or them.

MATTHEWS:  Are they right about compromise?

EDWARDS:  I think we—we have to compromise.  I actually think if you look at the health care bill, frankly, it was a compromise.  It may not have been the one that everyone wanted, I mean, but there are some of us who would have written a different bill, had we had a chance to do it on our own.

MATTHEWS:  So you‘ll be better off in the country if you had a more liberal position, you think?

EDWARDS:  I‘m just saying...

MATTHEWS:  No, would you in better shape right now if that was more of a progressive bill?

EDWARDS:  Well, I think people would...

MATTHEWS:  Politically.

EDWARDS:  I think people would have understood it a little bit more, and I think that we can do, you know, a lot—but it‘s transformational.  What I‘d like to see us do—and I think that there are points on which Republicans...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

EDWARDS:  ... and Democrats can agree.  We‘ve got to get down to that because that‘s what the American people expect.

MATTHEWS:  OK, I‘m going to ask you first this time, then Garamendi, Congressman Garamendi, next.  How do you send a message to the voters that you‘ve ears and you have brains?  Everybody knows Democrats have hearts.  That‘s the strength of party.  You do care about regular people.  It‘s the Republicans who are tough on law and order and tough on defense.  They‘re the tough guys.  You‘re you are the party that cares about people.  We know that part.

Do you have a brain?  Do you have ears?  Can you hear the public?  They voted against your party.  They knocked out 60-some members of your party.  They‘re friends of yours.  You know them personally.  You work with them every day.  You get in the elevator with them every day.  You take the escalator with them.  You know these people.  They‘re gone!  Did you hear the message?  And what are you going to do to prove you heard the message?

EDWARDS:  I heard the message that American people want jobs and they want us to focus on bringing them jobs.  The American people are disappointed, and rightfully so, and frustrated that all across this country, unemployment is still...

MATTHEWS:

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS:  ... at 9.6 percent.

MATTHEWS:  And when‘s it going to change?

EDWARDS:  You know, and I think that...

MATTHEWS:  Hasn‘t changed in a long time.

EDWARDS:  We‘ve been on a steady—look, we haven‘t increased unemployment.  I think that‘s a good thing...

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS:  We‘ve actually begun to create some jobs...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s come up since January.

EDWARDS:  ... in the private sector, Chris.  It has, but we‘ve been able to increase some jobs in the private sector, which is really important.  But Republicans and Democrats, because people lose their jobs, they‘re not Republicans or Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

EDWARDS:  They‘re just people without jobs.

MATTHEWS:  You know, you two folks are from the coasts, you know?  It‘s—you know, it‘s like my wife.  She‘s lived in California, lived in Chevy Chase.  I mean, I‘m not sure they‘re all from—a lot of people are familiar with what it‘s like from the middle of this country, what I like to call from Scranton to Oshkosh.  I‘m going to have some members of Congress on from that part of the country, too.

Both the left coast, as we love to call it, Mr. Garamendi, out west, they voted for Jerry Brown.  They voted for Barbara Boxer, voted for Patty Murray.  Yes, it‘s fine there.  The East Coast walked in Kirsten Gillibrand, walks in Andrew Cuomo, walks in—they got—you own the two coasts.  You‘re losing in the middle of the country because it sucks out there because from Pennsylvania all way to Wisconsin, including a clean guy like Russ Feingold, got blown away for one reason, jobs are not created.  Even if we have a recovery, most people don‘t think the jobs are coming back for Americans.

What are you going to do to bring jobs back to people that have been voting Democrat for hundreds of years and aren‘t voting that way anymore because they‘re Reagan Democrat again?  How do you bring them back?

GARAMENDI:  Well, Chris, you‘re a sports fan.  We‘ve talked about this...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m talking about the big 10 states.

GARAMENDI:  No, but listen—let‘s talk about the big 10.  If you consider the first quarter being the eight years of the Bush administration, in which things went into a tank in a bad, bad way—

800,000 jobs per month being lost—per quarter being lost in those years

then the second quarter was the last two years, with Obama coming in, stabilized things, brought the country back to stability, not where we need to be.  We‘re now in the second half.

MATTHEWS:  How much time...

(CROSSTALK)

GARAMENDI:  Here‘s what we must do, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Can you get it down to the 8 percent the president promised, that Christine Romer promised, his economic adviser?  (INAUDIBLE) down to the 8 percent he promised?

GARAMENDI:  Chris, there‘s a way of doing it.  And what we have set out to do—and this is part of the agenda that was started—we need to carry this on for the next two years, and that‘s an agenda of rebuilding the American manufacturing sector.  Make it in America.  If America is going to make it, we must make it in America.

For example, two things.  We have green technology tax credits for solar and wind...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

GARAMENDI:  ... but those pieces of equipment are not made in America. 

That‘s our tax money, it should be spent on American-made equipment.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m with you.

GARAMENDI:  And similarly, buses and trains, all of that transportation money...

MATTHEWS:  Yes!  Yes!  That‘s all I say.

GARAMENDI:  Made in America, Chris.  That‘s the second agenda.

MATTHEWS:  Have trains again!  Build things again like they did when we were growing up!  Why do we have to outsource building stuff?  Aren‘t Americans up to building anything?

GARAMENDI:  No, Chris, you‘ve got it right.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, (INAUDIBLE) country!  Let‘s have the other country, third world countries—oh, they‘ll build.  We will be thinkful—we‘ll be thoughtful.  They‘ll build things.

GARAMENDI:  No, no.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the kind of stuff...

GARAMENDI:  We‘re going to...

(CROSSTALK)

GARAMENDI:  ... manufacture things, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  We got to compete—yes, I know.  Thank you, Congressman Garamendi.  By the way, if you don‘t get this goal done by the spring of 2012, do you think Congress—do you think—I‘m going to ask you.  Will the president get reelected if you don‘t get the jobs number down?

EDWARDS:  We got to get the jobs number down.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.

EDWARDS:  We got to do it by creating jobs (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, guys.  Thank you so much, Congressman.  And have a nice...

GARAMENDI:  Take care, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  I think Thanksgiving‘s coming, too.  Thank you, Garamendi, Congressman Garamendi.  You have such an arresting last name, I call you by your last name.  Thank you, John Garamendi, and thank you, Donna Edwards.

Coming up: One thing we learned from last week‘s mid-term, President Obama has a problem, as I said, in the big 10 states, right from Pennsylvania westward, all those big industrial states where people wear jobbers to football games, from Scranton to Oshkosh.  Can he win them back?  He ain‘t going to do it without jobs.  We‘re going to talk about that and the presidential race coming up next year.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  I love this story!  They‘ve started counting write-in ballots up in Alaska, that Senate race up there.  Joe Miller has filed suit in federal court to block state officials from counting any misspellings—how‘s that for populism? -- any misspellings of the name Murkowski he‘s not going to—in other words, what an elitist!

The state says it plans to use voter intent as it tallies votes for Murkowski, so presumably Lisa M. or Murkowski that‘s misspelled would count as a vote for the incumbent senator.  Well, Miller‘s more than 11,000 votes behind the total number of write-in ballots, so he‘s trying to turn this election into a spelling contest.  What a regular guy!  Don‘t elitists do this kind of thing?  If you can‘t spell Murkowski, you can‘t vote for the person?

HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  President Obama, of course, won his election—we have to remember this—with only 53 percent of the vote, not a big margin.  It was decisive, of course, but it wasn‘t much of a cushion.  Well, the mid-terms showed that Democrats are struggling, especially in some important 2012 states, states the president needs to win.

Joining me right now is Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania.  Senator Casey, it‘s great to have you on because—well, you won last time when you ran, and I‘m just wondering.  This is a very tough year.  I keep saying from Scranton to Oshkosh, with a little of an exception, like the governor‘s race in Illinois, a bad year for the Dems, I say is sort of the big 10 states have lost out, regular people.  And I look at these numbers, people that make less than $50,000 a year, white people, to be blunt about it, because African-Americans have stuck with the president, stuck with the party—what are you going to do about that president?  Toomey‘s down 10 points now—or rather, Toomey won big, and the president in our latest poll is down 10 points.  So what do you make of this?

SEN. ROBERT CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  Well, Chris, it was a very tough day for Democrats.  There‘s no other way to slice it.  But there‘s no question that when that you have kind of a tough year, you‘ve got to examine the results and examine especially the exit polls.  In our statewide races, for example, we lost tremendous ground with regard to older—older voters, and we lost among independents.  They‘re two key groups, I think, for 2012.  I think we can get a lot of them back.

But mostly, Chris—and you know this from the discussions you‘ve been having, mostly it‘s economic, and people want those of us who represent them in Washington to continue to fight for jobs.  I think we‘ve got a pretty good record on it when it comes to creating jobs and incentivizing the creation of jobs—Recovery Act, 3 million jobs, the small business bill we just signed into law—the president did a couple weeks ago—the community bankers tell us will create a half million jobs.

But we have to keep putting in place strategies to create jobs, and we got to work together to do that and try and try again to work with our Republican colleagues.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I listen to my colleague, Ed Schultz, and for a while there, I thought he was too far out.  And I begin to get closer to him in politics, listening to him, because he talks sort of the labor argument, the big labor unions, the steelworkers, people like that.  And I do wonder if either party can bring us back to the kind of country way (ph) that I grew up with, where my grandpop, Charlie Shields (ph), a local Democratic committeeman, could get on the subway, take a couple stops and get to a real job where he built real stuff.  And I grew up with guys around me who worked at airplane factories and built subways and trains up at Bud (ph) in northeast Philly.  You know, those places, and Vertol (ph), where they put airplanes together.

CASEY:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Are there going to be jobs like that in Pennsylvania down the road, or we‘re all going to be working in typewriters, and at desktops, or in hotels?  Is it all going to be service jobs and high-tech jobs?

Because I wonder about the C-student who gets out of high school who is a good kid.  Where is he going to go, the C-student coming out of high school?  He is not going to work in high-tech, maybe.  And he‘s probably not going to want to work in a service job.  Shouldn‘t he have a job where you sweat and get a little dirty, come home proud of yourself?

Is that asking too much, or is that yesterday? 

CASEY:  No, no, I still believe we can move forward on manufacturing jobs, Chris.

But part of the problem is, we haven‘t had a strategy in place for a long enough time period to do that.  You know that community colleges—we have got in Pennsylvania 14 of them.  And a lot of states have even more.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  

CASEY:  But they have become the engines for those kinds of jobs.  And it doesn‘t have to be simply jobs that may not be created again.  There‘s a lot of advanced manufacturing jobs which involve the brawn in the—the usual manufacturing sense... 

MATTHEWS:  I understand. 

CASEY:  ... but also the ability to use your—use your brain as well.

But here‘s the key, though, Chris.  You cannot have a strategy in place where we are having companies move overseas and are incentivized by the tax code to do that, make a product overseas, and then, because you‘re allowed to defer your taxes, it provides both incentives to move jobs overseas. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CASEY:  We had a vote on this a couple weeks ago.  Democrats like me voted for it to change the tax code to create incentives and disincentives, so you don‘t have whole plants moving overseas.  The other side voted against it.

Maybe now, after the election—and the one thing that didn‘t change is jobs are still the number-one issue—maybe Republicans will work with us changing the tax code, putting in place other strategies to keep jobs here, to have those manufacturing jobs you have talked about. 

MATTHEWS:  You know how we had a Civil War, of course, and Pennsylvania was so proud of its role in that war.  There are monuments all over the state to that war. 

I worry, Congressman—Senator Casey about this problem, sort of the civil war economically going on between the two coasts.  Out in California, they are doing OK.  Up in New York and in New England, they are doing great.  Democrats are doing great on the left and the right coasts.

But once you get to Pennsylvania, you start moving past Philly, and you start moving westward, there seems to be another economy, the heartland economy that is getting hollowed out.  We got the high-tech in the Silicon Valley.  You got the high-tech in the 128 up in Boston.  You got New York financial, New York trade, and they all benefit from this globalization.

But then you get Pennsylvania, your state, and it starts to move over to Ohio, and Indiana, and Wisconsin.  They are getting passed by.  They are flyover, in more ways than one.  People fly over from them New York to L.A.  to make their careers.  They don‘t stop in Pennsylvania.  They keep flying over and they look down at 39,000 feet and they look down on these states and they really do look down on them. 

And I—don‘t you worry about that with your colleagues?  Do the people in New York and California look at the problems the way you and Sherrod Brown do from Ohio?  Do they look at it the same way? 

CASEY:  Well, part—I think there‘s certainly a different perspective.

But, Chris, I think a state like Pennsylvania has great potential to be able to make that shift, for a couple of reasons.  Number one, we have great universities.  We have a great work ethic with our people. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, that‘s true. 

CASEY:  We will be able to create those job if we put a tax strategy in place, but, also, that we make the right decisions on creating the work force of the future. 

One of the best things we will do in the next year or so is work on the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, where we are focused on the skills and training and jobs of the future.  And one of the ways to do that is to make sure that you can diversify your economy. 

I had lunch today with Pat Toomey.  He just got elected in the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CASEY:  One of the things that we have talked about in Pennsylvania, you go county by county in a state like ours, the two biggest employers in almost every county, whether it is Philly or a small rural county, health care and government jobs.  So, that has helped us get through the recession.

MATTHEWS:  Well, if you two guys get together, it is good for America.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m glad to know you went to lunch, because I want to know how you can get the pro—the tax cut mentality of the Republican Party and the job creation mentality of the Democratic Party to work together for the old states. 

Hey, thank you, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. 

CASEY:  Chris, thanks again. 

MATTHEWS:  Thanks for joining us tonight.  OK.  Thanks for that. 

CASEY:  Good to be with you, Chris. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m glad to hear about the lunch. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to U.S. Congressman Gary Peters.  He‘s from Michigan.  He‘s a Democrat. 

Same question to you, sir.

And I talked about this.  I‘m beginning to sound like a rant here.  But I do look at this economics and I look at the politics, and they are right on top of each other.  The politics is matching the economics.  The Democratic Party of jobs, which has always been the party of jobs, is losing in states where the jobs are disappearing. 

What are your thoughts?  How do you put it together, jobs and politics? 

(CROSSTALK)

REP. GARY PETERS (D), MICHIGAN:  Well, we have to—absolutely.  We have to put it together.

And certainly it was very important in Michigan, as you know, the troubles that we have been having in this state, is to have certainly President Obama and the Democrats stood up for the domestic auto industry, which was absolutely critical.

We got some good news today, General Motors earning $2 billion, on the verge of having an initial public offering to pay back the taxpayers.  It was a tough, tough road that we had to hoe.  You talked about the differences on the two coasts. 

There are big differences of people on the coast who thought that the domestic auto industry should disappear.  Well, it shouldn‘t.  In fact, you cannot have a manufacturing sector in this country, you can‘t have good-paying jobs, unless it is anchored by a strong and vibrant domestic auto industry.  And it‘s actually proven to be a success so far since those investments were made. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why don‘t you stick it to the Republicans?  The Republicans are making a big race—and I give them credit for trying—they‘re trying to steal all the industrial states away from the Democrats, because the times are bad. 

Why don‘t you challenge them and say, what are you guys going to do, you women and men, to bring back these states economically?  It‘s not just a question of benefiting from the failure of the economy.  It‘s bringing the economy back politically and economically. 

PETERS:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Are they going to do it, or are they just going to try to advantage themselves over your failures? 

PETERS:  Well, they can‘t.  Now that they have the majority in the House, they have got to come with some positive ideas as to how they are out there helping middle-class families. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  

PETERS:  Middle-class families in this country have been stagnant. 

The wages have been stagnant over this last decade.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

PETERS:  To me, that is really the underlying anxiety...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

PETERS:  ... being felt by middle-class families.  And it is about jobs.  It is about fighting the outsourcing.

We have been—in Michigan, we have lost over 300,000 jobs to outsourcing.  We have got to step up and make sure other countries around the world play by the same rules...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

PETERS:  ... that we do here in the United States.  We have got to get tough.  And, if we don‘t get tough, we are going to continue to be exporting good-paying jobs, and not just manufacturing jobs. 

What we have learned is, when manufacturing goes overseas, engineering and design follow right after that.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

PETERS:  There will not be good-paying jobs in this country...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

PETERS:  ... unless we stand up. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I love those ads by Jeff Daniels for your state. 

Thank you very much, Congressman Gary Peters of Michigan. 

PETERS:  Thank you.  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Republicans are great about saying they want to cut spending, but not so good when you ask them what to cut.  Just tell me what.  I keep asking Republicans, where are you going to cut?  The latest Republican plan calls for cuts in programs that don‘t even exist.  Well, that is nervy. 

Check out the “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Now to the “Sideshow.” 

First tonight:  Trick or treat.  Sarah Palin got word that Pennsylvania is considering limiting the amount of sweets that public schools give the students.  So Palin brought with her a special gift to a Pennsylvania school fund-raiser last night: sugar cookies. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  Had to kind of shake it up a little bit, because I had heard that there is a debate going on in Pennsylvania over whether public schools are going to ban sweets. 

So, I had to bring to these private school students—to show them how privileged they are, I brought dozens and dozens of cookies to these students. 

(LAUGHTER)

PALIN:  I had to shake it up for you guys, especially the press, OK? 

Who should be making the decisions what you eat and school choice and everything else?  Should it be government or should it be the parents?  It should be the parents. 

(APPLAUSE)

PALIN:  So, using that as kind of a tool. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, of course, this is nonsense.  Palin read a right-wing newspaper‘s account that got the whole thing wrong. 

The fact is, as everyone watching this show knows, school districts, public schools have always decided what foods to distribute to students.  Giving kids too much sugar is obviously a bad idea, right?  Anyway, the Pennsylvania schools are simply talking about guidelines of much sugar is given to the kids, not mandates. 

This whole thing is another tempest in a Tea Party teapot, like those scare stories that, oh, my God, the government is getting involved in Medicare. 

The government runs Medicare. 

Next up: fuzzy math.  This week, the Republican Study Committee promoted a new plan to cut $25 billion from the budget.  How?  They propose eliminating an emergency welfare fund.  There is only one hitch.  There is no fund.  “The New York Times” reports today that the welfare program in question being targeted expired two months ago. 

How about finding real programs to cut?  I keep asking these politicians who talk about eliminating government programs to just name one here.  Sit at this desk and tell me one program you want to get rid of.  Is that asking too much of people out there bragging all over the country about all the programs they‘re going to cut, but can‘t have the nerve to name one of them?

Now to tonight‘s “Big Number.”

Which—which 2010 candidate had the most expensive per-vote campaign nationwide?  Well, according to “The Washington Post,” it was Sharron Angle.  She spent $97 a vote.  Nevada Tea Partier Sharron Angle spent $97 per vote to lose by six points.  As the song goes, it‘s my Tea Party, and I will cry if I want to—tonight‘s telltale “Big Number.” 

Up next:  At a time when we need big ideas to get the country moving again, where are the leaders like the great Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan today?  Are there any real visionaries out there who can see ahead to the problems and help us prepare for them? 

You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks bouncing back after a rocky session—the Dow finishing 10 points higher, the S&P up five, and the Nasdaq climbing 15 points. 

Boeing was the biggest decliner on the Dow, after a Dreamliner test flight was forced to make an emergency landing.  Assurant plunging to the bottom of the S&P on a report alleging abuses on so-called forced place insurance policies.  Oil prices hitting a high for the year on a big drop in inventories, taking energy companies along for the ride. 

Major retailers seeing mixed results on strong sales and upbeat holiday forecasts from Macy‘s and Ralph Lauren.  And networking giant Cisco posting after the closing bell and delivering better-than-expected profits, but falling short on gross margins.

And General Motors posting a $2 billion profit ahead of next week‘s big IPO, topping Ford‘s $1.7 billion profit and Chrysler‘s $84 million loss for the quarter. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan valued facts, foresight, and intellectual fervor, things too often missing from today‘s debates. 

Former “New York Times” reporter Steven Weisman is with us now.  He is with the Peterson Institute for International Economics.  He‘s the editor of a fabulous book.  It‘s called “Daniel Patrick Moynihan: A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary,” one of the most beautiful books, I must say, I have come across.  And we‘re also joined by an inside expert, Lawrence O‘Donnell, my great colleague, a superstar of prime time.  He‘s host of MSNBC‘s “THE LAST WORD,” who served as Senator Moynihan‘s staff director of the Senate Finance Committee, and other high responsibilities. 

I will start with Steve and then go to you for the color, Lawrence, because you worked with this guy every day.

Steve Weisman, this book is a reminder in this time, this thicket of mediocrity we are in right now, that there is in fact a memory, a fairly recent memory, of a senator who had vision.  He sought end of the Soviet Union coming.  He saw the need for rapid rail.  He saw the need to make Washington a beautiful city.  He had every—he understood the problems of the African-American family, the dysfunction that led to so many problems. 

He was ahead of so many things. 

STEVEN WEISMAN, PETER G. PETERSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL

ECONOMICS:  Yes, he was one of a kind.  I‘m not sure we‘re ever going to see his kind again, Chris.

But, also, he understood the yin and yang of American politics.  And he had a foot in both camps.  He understood the thinking of Republicans and of Democrats.  And he understood that the interaction was what made the country healthy.

MATTHEWS:  Well, how did he work with Jack Kennedy?  And he was a true emotional tribal believer in Jack Kennedy.

WEISMAN:  He was tribal.

MATTHEWS:  Very Irish tribal.  And yet he could work hand in glove with Richard M. Nixon. 

WEISMAN:  Well, he saw in Nixon—and I think he later realized how naive he was—a chance to find a new center in American politics, at this explosive time of 1968, when the country—there were riots, assassinations.

And he believed that Nixon could bring the best of both worlds to the White House. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what, Lawrence?  You were with him every day.  And I just—I do envy you this, sir, the chance to get up in the morning, go to work, and realize that, across the hall, or, rather, in your own office suite, was the presence of this great man.  You could actually great him in the morning, say, hi, Senator, how‘s it going, and begin your day. 

How did he avoid personalities in politics?  I think he made a point, like Ike did, of never attacking personal—an opponent by personality.  It was always about the policy issue. 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  He never did—and he never did privately. 

I can tell you I heard him once in all my years say one sharply critical thing.  It was about a local New York City politician.  And it was a very brief moment.  And I never heard him say anything personally critical about any other politicians. 

He didn‘t participate often in profiles. People would want to call—they are doing a profile on so-and-so, and he just didn‘t participate because he didn‘t think about them that way with.  He thought about them as people who have a job to and they‘re doing their job to varying degrees of confidence.  And it was never really personal to him.

And, Chris, I think one of the great keys that has delivered us Steve‘s book, which is a become about a thinking politician.  And this is Steve‘s box, it is brilliantly, as you say, beautifully written.  Pat Moynihan is a co-author but there would be no book without Steve.  He put this together in a beautiful and artful way.

The key to, I think, everything you‘re talking about and how he was able to take a breath and do this thinking is he did something that now politicians would be condemned for and many even in his own day could be, he took the August recess and he recessed.  He went up to his farm in Upstate New York.  He sat alone in his one-room schoolhouse this old one-room schoolhouse on the property, he wrote he thought, he collected had his own thinking.  He took that pause you have to take to figure in that incredibly hectic job as senator, what do you really think.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Well, let me just make a pitch for your book, if you have a relative—

O‘DONNELL:  Please.

MATTHEWS:  -- who cares about Democratic politics who‘s a liberal, a smart liberal, this book is Christmastime here.  This is the book you want to have to sit under the Christmas tree or Hanukkah or whatever.  You want it there.

Let me ask you, Steve, about this my favorite project at this time.  I look at the industrial part of this country wiped out by this thing.  The Democratic Party wiped out across this country because they don‘t have something to sell.

I don‘t know why they don‘t sell what Moynihan was selling, (INAUDIBLE), rapid rail.  Every other country in the world now, all the advanced countries, China, certainly Europe, they—you sweep across those countries at 300 miles an hour.  We are chugging along on Amtrak.

Moynihan is going to have this beautiful station in New York named after him, Moynihan station probably, but nothing coming in and out of him.  He says people are coming in New York like rats.  They‘re coming to these filthy, old stations, or Penn station the way it is, and they should be coming in like princes.  Why don‘t we have pride in the country we are building?

We wouldn‘t be building the Golden Gate Bridge today.  We wouldn‘t be building Washington today or Chicago.  We don‘t build anything anymore.  All we do is pay debts.

What do we do?  Pass checks around?  What happened to the Democratic Party?

It used to be Robert Moses in New York.  He used to build things.  Pat Brown in California built the highway system, built the university system.

What‘s wrong with Democrats building anymore—are they just completely chicken?

STEVE WEISMAN, AUTHOR, “DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN”:  I think they‘re chicken.  I mean, what happened is that it got labeled as pork barrel.  I mean, I was out in Montana—

MATTHEWS:  The Golden Gate Bridge is pork barrel?

WEISMAN:  Well, I—

MATTHEWS:  The interstate highway system?  Lincoln built the Continental Railroad, was that pork barrel?  Of course, there‘s bridges to nowhere.  Of course, there‘s junk.

All right.  I‘m sorry.

WEISMAN:  Yes, of course.  But, you know, and also the Erie Canal.  I mean, Pat Moynihan had a lot of projects that didn‘t go anywhere in New York, but he understood he helped turn the Erie Canal which goes across Upstate New York, is probably more responsible for anything that happened in New York City for New York being the port that it became in the 19th century and the Empire State.  He revitalized that and made it into a tourist attraction.  So, there was not only construction, but there was ingenuity and creativity.

MATTHEWS:  And now for the final word, Lawrence O‘Donnell.  Thoughts on Pat Moynihan—what do we miss now that we don‘t have from him?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, we do miss that vision and a consistency.  I think what you‘re talking about on infrastructure is it became uncool, Chris—it just became uncool in government for decades.  He kept his eye on it.  He was chairman of the public works commission—committee in the Senate for a while.  He would be horrified by what the governor of New Jersey, for example, just decided on building another tunnel.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  No vision in that decision at all.  The notion that we have to pay for these things out of current receipts—we don‘t do that with anything else we build in the private sector.  Everything built in the private sector is mortgaged.  It‘s understood it‘s going to take decades to pay for building.  We could go on and on about this, Chris.  It‘s—

MATTHEWS:  Somebody should tell—

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  The book is important.  It is a great read.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, thank you, Lawrence, so much.  It‘s great to have you as a colleague.

By the way, somebody should tell the governor of New Jersey, it‘s going to be a wide tunnel, very useful to certain people.

Thank you very much, Steve Weisman.  The book is called “Daniel Patrick Moynihan.”  And thank you, Lawrence O‘Donnell, for that.

Up next: the great actor Kevin Spacey joins us.  He‘s playing this sleaze ball you might call him, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff on a new film “Casino Jack.”  If you want a good look at how the Republicans used power the last time they had it, you got to see this movie and what it was like playing a corrupted guy.  That‘s an interesting message for an actor.

There he is, Kevin Spacey playing Abramoff.  “Casino Jack.”

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Tough to defend 23 Senate seats in 2012, Republicans only 10. But the Democrats like their chances up in Massachusetts where they hope to knock off Senator Scott Brown.  The warning signs are there for Brown, as not a single Republican won at the statewide level or federal level in Massachusetts last week—a Democratic victory across the board.  Even Governor Deval Patrick beat his challenger comfortably, despite looking vulnerable throughout the campaign.  And Brown‘s 2009 opponent, Martha Coakley, she won by a sweeping 26 points.

So, the Democrats are back in Massachusetts, back in control.  Brown has a lot of work to do in that state if he wants to stay there in that blue area.

HARDBALL will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CASINO JACK”)

KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR, “CASINO JACK”:  Look at politics and celebrities on TV and the newspapers, glossy magazines, what do they see?  I‘m just like that.  That‘s what they see.  I‘m special.  I‘m different.

I can be anyone of them.  Well, guess what, you can‘t.  You know why?  Because in reality, mediocrity is where most people live.  Mediocrity is in the elephant in the room.  It‘s ubiquitous.  Mediocrity is in your schools.  It‘s in your dreams.  It‘s in your family.

Those of us who know this, those of us who understand the disease of the dull, we do something about it.  We do something more because we have to.  The deck was always stacked against us.  You are either a big leader or you‘re a slave clawing your way onto the C-Train.

Some people say Jack Abramoff moves too fast, Jack Abramoff cuts corners—well, I say to them, if that‘s the difference between me and my family having a good life and walking and using the subway every day, then so be it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.

That was Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey as Jack Abramoff, the Jack Abramoff in the upcoming movie “Casino Jack.”

Well, Republicans won widely in last week‘s midterm elections, but what drove them out four years ago?  We have to remember why they weren‘t running the Congress going into those elections.  A lot of it was the culture of corruption.  Jack Abramoff and his wonderful colleague celebrated, selling influence and power when they had it.

Here to talk about that era and the new movie is Kevin Spacey.

I mean, Kevin, talk about “The Usual Suspects,” another one of your great movies.  This guy Abramoff, we have forgotten—I think that voters have a limited attention span like we all d, and after a couple of years, they forgot the sleaze balls that ran this country, Abramoff, Michael Scanlon.

I was just going over their records here.  Abramoff served 3 ½ years in prison.  Bob Ney the congressman he bought served a year and a half this prison, probably not enough.  Michael Scanlon, believe it or not, I guess because he copped a plea, is still waiting for sentencing.

What did you learn?  Because I did a lot of work today going through the movie, the parts that I saw, and then looking through all the record.  It‘s all exactly the truth.  There‘s no—there seems to be very little what do you call poetic license here.

SPACEY:  Yes.  No, we didn‘t make anything up and I think one of the reasons why people are responding to the film, comedically, is because it‘s so outrageous, some of this stuff, that it‘s just inherently funny.  I mean, you can‘t believe.

It‘s a little bit like when we did “Recount” about the 2000 election, I think that people were not prepared for the film being as entertaining as it was.

MATTHEWS:  What—how outrageously corrupt people are?

SPACEY:  Well, you know, I think that there is—there is, without question, a culture that Abramoff was a part of.  I think that, you know, you and I both know that they have a selective justice system in this country, and I think that in large degree, he got thrown under—unceremoniously under a lot of buses because they wanted to make a claim that they were cleaning up the lobbying industry and I don‘t think they have.  I think that we saw on election in the last week in which the amounts of money that has been raised through lobbying.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s get to the word “corruption.”  A lot of people in the Tea Party movement—and they‘re right about this—think that there‘s too much power.  But how you use power is an interesting question.  Do you use it to distribute justice and make sure that people get it, or do you use power to grab what you can?

A lot of questions that I ask are: what does a lobbyist do for a living?  Now, a lobbyist can simply educate people.  They can say they can go up to the Hill, get a half hour meeting with a member congressman.

Let me tell you about the complication of our industry, and that‘s a job, and it‘s a fair job.  And then there are guys that get members who are in trouble, need money, need help, right?

SPACEY:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  And they get them to do they‘re doing just as a favor to an old pal.

SPACEY:  You come over to the White House and I‘ll give you a picture with George Bush and then, you know, we‘ll give you money for your campaign.

And, you know, I think it‘s still going on.  I don‘t think—I think that they‘re very clever about how they get around the new rules.  You know what my favorite thing is, you‘re supposed to not have a dinner, right?  You can‘t have a dinner.  So, what constitutes a dinner if you‘re not sitting down?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SPACEY:  It‘s not a dinner.

MATTHEWS:  So, all of those things.  You know I‘m going to talk about it in my close, you know, the movie “Wedding Crashers.”  You know what that‘s based on?  Staffers that work for a congressman up on the Hill who used to go to these afternoon feeds on the Hill, afterwards.

I mean, I used to do it.  All of the shrimp cocktail you can eat because I was single at the time in my 20s.  You could go around the Hill and there‘d be some lobbyist down the hall from your office would be a bunch of food sitting at the table, and rather go home and go to a restaurant or something, you just stop by there and eat the shrimp.

SPACEY:  But that

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, what they end up saying, if you can do it on the Hill, you can do it at a wedding.  So they can crash a wedding.

SPACEY:  But don‘t you think also that if the networks stopped charging for political advertising, they actually started serving the public—

MATTHEWS:  Free ads.

SPACEY:  -- the country, free ads.

MATTHEWS:  Well, who you would give the ads to.

SPACEY:  Well, I think that in every state you‘d have local television showing that senator, that governor, who‘s going to run.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

SPACEY:  And every national network, you‘d have do presidential, vice presidential.  And I think if you took the money away, that they didn‘t have to raise it, then maybe corruption would actually start to go away.

MATTHEWS:  Can I put it back in your corner?

SPACEY:  Yes?

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that the government of the United States, or the taxpayers, or our industry should pay for these sleazy ads that they put on, these indictive ads that simply call other guy a crook.

SPACEY:  No, I actually think that there should be guidelines and there should be an effort to make sure if somebody does an ad, what they‘re saying about arrival is absolutely accurate.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

SPACEY:  But look, John Hickenlooper ran a really good—I got to say, because my director—

MATTHEWS:  From Colorado.

SPACEY:  Ran a great campaign in Colorado, refused to go negative. 

And he won by a great margin.  So, maybe there‘s hope.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I just talked to Pat Leahy up in Vermont, he never ran a negative ad in his life.  He‘s just got elected to seventh term.

SPACEY:  And Moynihan.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Pat Moynihan.

Thank you so much, Kevin Spacey.  I can‘t wait to see the full movie tonight.

SPACEY:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll be with you.

The movie “Casino Jack” opens up in select cities next month.  I love that.  Only special (INAUDIBLE), just kidding.

Let me finish tonight with some thoughts about the culture of corruption here in Washington.  I know a little bit about it.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with this matter of corruption.

“Power tends to corrupt,” Lord Acton wrote.  “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

It‘s my experience that anyone who comes to Washington, this capital city, better come with a strong moral code to start with.  There are other things you can learn here, it‘s a city about power and its division.  It‘s a good place to learn, how to gain it, exert it, and yes, share it.

Limiting power, forcing people to share it is what our Constitution is all about.

One thing you‘re easily thought here in Washington is all the little instruments of power.  You can abuse the little perks of power like the free meals you can score up on Capitol Hill by just stopping by some spread a lobbyist is laying out in some room down the hall.  I talked about that.

That‘s where the idea for the movie “Wedding Crashers” came from, some young Hill staffer saw how easy it was to crash a feed put on by lobbyists even if you weren‘t invited.  They simply applied that principle to weddings out in the country beyond in city.  OK, that‘s the funny part.

The dirty part, the evil part if you can stand that word, is how people who used to work for senators or congressmen or still do learn how to work the system.  They exploit the perks.  They exploit the familiarity, the comfort, the friendship that they gain with elected members of Congress and then sell it out on the street.

Hey, I can get you a meeting with senator.  Hey I can get your business mentioned favorably in a congressional record.  It‘s an easy statement.  First, just a meeting, then just a little statement in the congressional record.  The congressman doesn‘t have to deliver a speech, just slip it into the record.

It‘s when this incremental corruption works you up to the food chain to where you‘re getting taxes and regulations changed based on those personal ties—that‘s when the real corruption takes over.  Or do you think it‘s OK?  Think it‘s OK to use the connection to get a friend a meeting?  Then where do you stop?

Someone with a moral register to start with knows, his mind and his gut, get it right.  Those who don‘t, see the main chance.  Jack Abramoff, Mike Scanlon, Congressman Bob Ney, bought their ticket and took their chances.

Corruption is nonpartisan.  It‘s an equal opportunity employer.  Greed comes without ideology, and certainly without a party label.  You don‘t think people on the right or on the left are capable of grabbing and misusing power—then you haven‘t been paying attention.  Lord Acton wrote in 1887, power corrupts and he was right.

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.

Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.

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